She Tried To Be Good

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short period of my life involving two other main players.

Submitted: May 04, 2008

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Submitted: May 04, 2008

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She approached him with all the effrontery of a seventeen year old in her safe zone - her with her dirty, filthy biker mates and him on his BMW. She thought he was so straight and full of it and really, she was making fun of him, but he never, ever got that. A couple of years later, when they met for the second time, he told her he had thought she was a tart back then. When she broke off her engagement to the Harley rider, she sat in her room in her parents' home, hand stitching a quilt she suddenly needed to make. It was going to be a big, colourful, memory-laden quilt, created from the plethora of fabrics stored away in the upstairs cupboards. There were bits of her old favourite childhood dresses and pieces of material that evoked memories. It was such a pleasant thing to be doing, sitting on her bed, cutting out shapes, pinning and tacking them to card board and then, with the tiniest stitches, joining them all together in a one-of-a-kind kaleidoscope. It was mesmerising, meditative work that calmed her mind and assuaged the guilt that burdened her; the big party they had given her 'All that trouble we went to and the expense.' She had returned all the engagement presents personally but still, no 21st for her now. She'd had her party. Of course, she couldn't really sew because she was a failure; 'I failed with you! You can't sew, can't knit.' The undertone said more but you can't quote an undertone. She probably shouldn't have been sewing in the first place. 'Go out and meet someone for god's sake, instead of sitting here at home all the time doing nothing.' She didn't want to go anywhere except her room but she went because she knew no better. One thing she did know was that everyone in the world was smarter than her. Unborn babies had higher IQ's than her, so she never questioned, but put the quilt aside, touching the fabric lovingly and longingly, promising to come back to it soon and admiring the way the tiny stitches didn't show. 
They married on a rainy day. She wore her mother's dress and he wore an awful shiny, grey suit. Her 21st had passed without fuss or cheer, two months beforehand. The whole shebang was her mother's and she had no say. Such a blur it was. She tried to be good. She never 'lived in sin' because it would have upset them. She picked her mother's birthday to get married on but it was not appreciated. She had the 'kitchen tea' the way her mother wanted it and it was excruciating and she invited all these relatives she'd never heard of because if she didn't, there would be 'no wedding.' She tried, but it was no use, she was a failure. 
The quilt and the guilt moved with her. She burnt the toast on the first morning and really, it was all downhill from there. They travelled widely on the bikes and saw much. On the Stuart Highway, all dirt, bulldust and corrugations, she lost control and dropped his bike, denting his crash bars, which upset him more than her broken foot. They saw red desert and the bluest sky. They met amazing people with skin so black that it was blue, but it didn't change them. They returned home in the end and it was as though they had never left. The timing must have been off.
She tried to be good but never ever got it right - except the babies - they were perfect, but he said they weren't interesting until they were two. She never figured out how he came up with that. They were beautiful and so precious but she never played with them as much as she wanted to because he was always there, working from home and checking up, but each baby slept under the cot sized quilt that she'd hurriedly finished. She tried to be good, cooking three meals a day for him and dessert every single night, as he wanted. She kept the house clean and the babies grew in the appropriate fashion. She chopped wood every day, tended the vegie garden, milked the goat, ground the wheat, made the bread and bore his remonstrances. She did what she was supposed to do and stayed because she knew she must. She started a new quilt for the graduation of her first born to a single bed. It was a clever, bright, original thing with the alphabet and numbers stitched on with the machine she didn't know how to use. She was using big, bright squares of blue and yellow this time, but still joining each square with tiny, hand placed stitches. This was a joyful thing to do but a friend came by and said she was wasting her time and should use the sewing machine to join them, so she did. Everything became crooked and the stitches showed. Her quilt went awry and was never finished.
One day, she joined a choir and the downhill run went into overdrive. She had changed, he said and he didn't like it. She didn't think she'd changed. She neglected nothing and everyone was fed, bathed and cared for as usual but he said he knew something was wrong when she stopped making bread. One day he told her she had to stop singing but she saw no reason to and anyway, she'd only had a short break from making bread. The choir was the nearest she would ever come to her dream of thumping a bass guitar, crotch high on a stage with thousands of screaming fans begging her to sing more! more! Audiences talked while they sang their a cappella stuff but it was fun and she was writing songs. He told her he wanted the doormat back that he'd married and the house vibrated from the shock waves of the statement. So many times, she dragged out a suitcase but had no idea what to do next. How do you leave something when you're a failure? 
But failures too reach the end of their rope eventually and she hit the ground running as fast as she could but going nowhere. She tried to be good and asked for nothing from him and as little as possible from anyone else, but her mother said she'd ruined Christmas and they couldn't help her out.
Through all that followed, death, public speaking, abandonment, moving house and homelessness, she remained alive, but barely. Life, she thought, is a weird thing. The quilts went into storage but the guilt went in the glove box.Failures thrive on failure and she throve, sinking deeper, drawing the curtains closed and leaving the rooms dark. Existence was fearful but tainting her children was to be feared more and so she see-sawed from hopelessness to pretence for what seemed the beginning of all eternity. As far as failures went, she reckoned, she was down there with the best and there was little left to do but wait for the end of eternity; a long wait, but she was good for it. 
 
 
© Yvonne Short.


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